The Big Question: Can Dan Orlovsky play?

May, 25, 2010
5/25/10
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Could Dan Orlovsky prove a capable fill-in if Matt Schaub misses time?

[+] EnlargeDan Orlovsky
Fernando Medina/US PresswireDan Orlovsky still has to prove he's ready to back up starting QB Matt Schaub.
Lost in Peyton Manning's fourth MVP season was the fact that the Indianapolis Colts quarterback didn’t even lead the AFC South in passing yardage. Matt Schaub of the Houston Texans actually led the NFL in that category, with 4,770 yards.

That number came about in part because of the Texans' run struggles, but it's still quite impressive.

Schaub played all 16 games last season, throwing all but nine of the team’s 592 quarterback passes. His backup, Rex Grossman, hit it off with offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, and followed Shanahan to Washington this offseason. That puts Orlovsky back in line to back up Schaub.

We’ll get a much better sense in training camp, but Orlovsky was shaky last summer. Several teams had coveted the former Detroit Lions veteran before he joined the Texans as a free agent. Grossman’s arrival and subsequent preseason performance bumped Orlovsky to No. 3.

But Texans coach Gary Kubiak is more at ease with Orlovsky as the backup now.

“Obviously, I’m more comfortable,” Kubiak told Houston media this week. “He’s a better player right now than he was last year. It’s a really big camp coming up for him, training camp and stuff. Dan’s had some chances in this league, and he’s got all of the tools that Matt has. The question is for him, ‘Does he continue to progress and get better?’”

Kubiak didn’t view Grossman’s move to No. 2 as a demotion for Orlovsky last summer, and said he really liked the way Orlovsky handled it.

“Really, what happened was that there were great expectations for him, and it wasn’t happening as fast,” Kubiak said. “I really, personally -- and I told Dan this, so it’s nothing new to him -- I really just thought it was about his standard in how he prepares and how he plays and how he practices. We’ve got one here for the quarterback. Our quarterback is going to play good. It just wasn’t happening at the same pace it should have.

“So we felt more comfortable with Rex, who had played in a lot of football games. Dan could have done one of two things. He could have sulked; he didn’t. He worked all year. He helped Matt, and he’s a better player because of it. I’m proud of the way he went about his business, and now it’s time for him to take off.”

That said, he offered no guarantee that Orlovsky is the No. 2. He’ll have to show them he’s ready and make sure they aren’t tempted by someone else who may end up on the market.

“It’s time to work, and what he has to do is he’s got to earn the respect from everybody,” Kubiak said. “If Matt is not practicing a day, he has to continue to have this football team practicing well. They’ve got to know if something happens to Matt, we still win. That’s your job as a backup quarterback.”

Paul Kuharsky | email

ESPN Tennessee Titans reporter

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